Cowboy vs. Cowboy sounds more like a lame Hollywood movie than a main event fight, but thankfully it’s not. The two cowboys — Donald Cerrone and Alex Oliveira — will fight Sunday night, and it should be a shootout. But who will have more horsepower? I’ll save you from the rest of my horrid puns and get to the fight breakdowns.
Donald Cerrone ($10600) vs Alex Oliveira ($8800)
Cerrone moves up to 170 — for now — after his brutal loss to Rafael dos Anjos back in December. Oliveira took this fight on short notice, with just a few weeks to prepare for one of the top fighters in the game. Cerrone, as usual, needs to get off to a quicker start. His deadly leg kicks would be a nice starting point. If Cerrone does not finish early, look for Oliveira to fade in rounds 3-5. It is at that point that Cerrone will get Oliveira to the ground and choke him out.
Pick: Cerrone by submission
Derek Brunson ($11100) vs Roan Carneiro ($8300)
Brunson has turned it up in his last two fights, both first-round finishes. He gets a favorable matchup here in Carneiro, who is a low-volume striker. Carneiro, now in his second stint in the UFC, is primarily a submission specialist, but good luck getting Brunson to the ground, who has yet to be taken down in the UFC. Brunson holds height, reach, speed and power advantages over Carneiro, and the real question is how he wins. Look for devastating ground and pound and a third straight first-round finish from Brunson.
Pick: Brunson by KO/TKO
Augusto Mendes ($8400) vs Cody Garbrandt ($11000)
Garbrandt is one of the top prospects in the game, and like Brunson gets a great matchup in Augusto Mendes. Garbrandt shouldn’t have many problems with Mendes, as long as he’s able to keep this fight standing. He has yet to be taken down in two UFC fights. Mendes is a world-class BJJ champion, but he’s yet to be tested in The Octagon, and his striking is lacking. Garbrandt’s speed and power should overwhelm Mendes early and lead to an exciting finish.
Pick: Garbrandt by KO/TKO
Tatsuya Kawajiri ($8600) vs Dennis Bermudez ($10800)
Lock of the night. Bermudez is a destroyer, and while much respect is given to “Crusher” Kawajiri, his UFC wins have all come by his use of takedowns and ground control. That’s not happening against Bermudez, who has defended takedowns at a 92% clip. That makes this a striking battle, and Bermudez has amazing power and speed. Look for a big right hand from Bermudez that puts Kawajiri down, then the finish from top position with a barrage of strikes.
Pick: Bermudez by KO/TKO
Joe Riggs ($8900) vs Chris Camozzi ($10500)
Riggs has looked really old in his latest UFC stint, his sole win coming via disqualification of his opponent in his last fight. Camozzi was throttled by Jacare in his return to the UFC, but acquitted himself nicely in a decision win over Tom Watson in his last bout. Camozzi will push the pace and Riggs chin won’t hold up. Camozzi will finish early, and Riggs will be off to Bellator.
Pick: Camozzi by KO/TKO
James Krause ($10100) vs Shane Campbell ($9300)
Upset time. Krause may have saved his job with his win over Daron Cruickshank last July, but Campbell is a high-level striker that should cause Krause fits. Krause’s ground game is his bread and butter, but he completes takedowns at a paltry 19% clip. In his last fight, Campbell doubled up Elvis Silverio in striking and even had two takedowns. But Krause is a tough vet who has been knocked out only once. I expect Campbell to win the rounds and take the fight, but it will be by decision. Is that going to be worth $9300? That depends on the rest of your lineup, but Campbell will get the W.
Pick: Campbell by decision
Sean Strickland ($9900) vs Alex Garcia ($9500)
Strickland will enjoy generous advantages in both height and reach, and will use that to work behind his jab and pepper Garcia from a distance. Strickland lands nearly double the significant strikes that Garcia does. Neil Magny is similar in stature to Strickland, and he absolutely shut down Garcia. I have doubts about Strickland finishing Garcia though, so paying $9900 for a decision win seems a bit steep. I’ll likely pass on this fight, but I expect Strickland to take it.
Pick: Strickland by decision
Daniel Sarafian ($10400) vs Oluwale Bamgbose ($9000)
Second upset of the card. Bamgbose has insane power, and you can disregard his debut performance against Uriah Hall. Bamgbose has five first-round knockouts to his credit, and he’ll be able to lay his hands on Sarafian, who absorbs almost three significant strikes per minute. I’m not sure why Sarafian is such a favorite here, but I love that Bamgbose will get 100+ points for just $9K.
Pick: Bamgbose by KO/TKO
Anthony Smith ($10200) vs Leonardo Augusto ($9200)
Smith makes his way back into the UFC after being cut in 2013. His recent record suggests he is a much better fighter, knocking out former UFC fighters Josh Neer and Brock Jardine in his last two fights, both first-round finishes. He’s won seven straight fights, including two in Bellator. Augusto, aka Guimares, has just one loss on his record, and beat former UFC fighter Richardson Moreira in his last bout. Smith is certainly the more technical fighter, but Augusto can get buck wild in the cage. If it turns into a brawl, it would favor Augusto. But I think Smith is polished enough to keep to his game plan and win the rounds.
Pick: Smith by decision
Jonavin Webb ($10700) vs Nathan Coy ($8700)
Simply put, Nathan Coy is a pain to fight. He’s gritty, grindy and has a ton of experience. He can be finished, but I simply wouldn’t put salary against that. And if Webb wins by decision, it hardly justifies the $10700 in salary. I think Webb will outlast Coy, but it won’t be beneficial to your lineup.
Pick: Webb by decision
Ashlee Evans-Smith ($9100) vs Marion Reneau ($10300)
Reneau was 2-0 in the UFC before she lost to Holly Holm via decision last July. She is well-rounded and experienced, and she should have her way with Evans-Smith. She’ll push the pace and win the striking battle, laying a beating on her before ending this with a submission late in the fight.
Pick: Reneau by submission
Lauren Murphy ($10900) vs Kelly Faszholz ($8500)
Murphy is the former Invicta FC champ, and she’ll get newcomer Faszholz on super-short notice. Murphy has lost her first two UFC fights by decision to Liz Carmouche and Sara McMann, but she should notch her first win against Faszholz, whose three pro wins have come against opponents with a combined 4-8 record. Murphy should overpower, then pound out Faszholz for the TKO win.
Pick: Murphy by KO/TKO
Shamil Abdurakhimov ($9800) vs Anthony Hamilton ($9600)
If Hamilton is able to put Abdurakhimov on his back, he should be able to ground and pound his way to a ref stoppage. Based on his performance against Daniel Omielanczuk, I’d say he will be able to follow that game plan. I like the “Freight Train” to score his third UFC victory here.
Pick: Hamilton by KO/TKO